Talking Parrot - review of "Alex and Me" by Irene Pepperberg

Authors Avatar by stayfli (student)

Title: Alex and Me

Author: Irene Pepperberg

Josh Keller

        This relatively short recount of Irene Pepperberg’s experiment with Alex is a very intriguing book.  The truth behind it and the idea of a thirty year experiment between man and beast is awe-inspiring.  The short 226 page story is written by Irene herself, but recounts the story very well in very few words.

The story of Alex is told starting with his end.  After Alex, an African Gray, passed away at an early age for his species of bird at 31, Irene Pepperberg was in a state of  grieving.  She had worked with Alex for over three decades.  Although she maintained a scientific relationship, an objective approach, she still became emotionally attached to Alex without noticing it.  Alex left with his final words being “You be good.  I love you.”  Pepperberg compared losing Alex to be the same as losing her baby several years earlier.  People all around the world who were touched by Alex wrote in to Irene sending their condolences.

        Irene Pepperberg began her interest in birds when she received a baby parakeet for her 5th birthday.  She can’t remember its name and it never talked, but it played with her and flitted around on her shoulder wherever she was in their house.  She grew older and kept getting more birds, with her first bird to talk being Charlie Bird number one.  The summer before her senior year, she was in an introduction course at MIT for chemistry.  A canary flew in the window and the teacher was not happy.  Pepperberg told everyone to turn off the Bunsen burners and put a dish of water in a corner.  The canary landed for a drink, and Irene trapped it and took it home to find its owner.

Join now!

        Irene Pepperberg went to MIT where she was aiming towards a degree in chemistry.  She met her husband there and became engaged while enrolled in MIT and married after transferring to Harvard.  She recognized her larger interest in biology and started looking around for a way to further this idea.  She thought that since African Grays were good at communication, she could replicate the results with a bird that others had done with chimps.  She began her experiment with a one year old African Gray named Alex.  

        Alex started out very skittish but very quickly became accustomed to being ...

This is a preview of the whole essay